Popular Science has a nice, wide-ranging interview with Will Wright about his upcoming title, Spore. In the interview, he talks a bit about user-generated content: “I want people to feel like they are Pokemon designers, Neopet designers, or Pixar designers.” Like a lot of interactive software (games, virtual worlds, snowflake construction simulators, etc.) these days, Spore looks to be about providing the user with tools that enable them to create whatever content they like and allowing them to share that content with others. What separates Spore from Second Life, though, is that the entire process is wrapped in a highly structured gameplay experience.

A lot of the talk around user-generated content these days suggests that if you just provide some simplified tools and tell your users to have at them, those users will instantly populate your world with tons of high-quality content, and all you’ll have to do is sit back and watch the money roll in. As anyone who’s ever been trapped in a staring contest with a blank page or canvas knows, though, it’s really hard to be creative without some kind of push to get your juices flowing. Putting tools within the context of a game, however, with its concrete rules and goals, can provide enough fuel to kickstart the user’s creative engines and help them on the way to their first opusculum.

Of course, since Spore is still months (at least) away, it remains to be seen whether it will deliver on its promise of “massively single-player” expressiveness, or if it will just be the next Magic Pengel. Perhaps the talk at GDC by one of Wright’s lieutenants, Chaim Gingold, will shed some light on the subject.

Speaking of GDC, I’ll be there. Will you? (Whoever “you” may be.) We should hang out.